Okay, this is probably one of the most random things I've EVER written, but it was swimming around in my head for WAY too long and it started to bug me, so I had to write it out. It takes place during Ariel's Beginning, and after the Southern Raiders but before the Season Finale. So, Ariel would be like "Eric who?" if you mentioned that name, and the GAang is still trying to defeat Ozai, but Sozin's Comet hasn't arrived yet. Okay, hope that isn't too confusing. Oh, and ignore the fact that I merged the night where all of the sisters go to the club and the night where everyone is arrested into one, I had already written that part by the time I decided to re-watch that scene, and discovered that they were two separate nights, so just pretend that it's all in one. ;)
Disclaimer: I don't own the Little Mermaid, that belongs to Disney (but if I did own it, Eric would be a WHOLE lot more interesting, and there would be some logic behind Ariel's loving him) or Avatar: the Last Airbender, that belongs to . . . erm, I don't remember the producers' names right now, but it belongs to them! (and if I owned Avatar, Zutara and Taang would have happened, and NO ONE would have been caught DEAD saying "Baby, you're my forever girl," not even in a weird hormone-driven dream-sequence)
Zuko sat glumly in the corner. He still wasn't quite sure how he had gotten there. They had all followed a native of this strange place to an intricately hidden club that seemed to be full of the joy and excitement that the terrain lacked. Now, Zuko wasn't glum because he didn't like the overall happy feel of the place, no, he was moody because he was out of his element.
Aang had been trying to impress Katara by doing some difficult and very odd waterbending moves that he had discovered carved onto a shell washed up on the shore, and had attracted everyone's attention just by the sheer uniqueness of the ritual he was performing. The next thing he knew, Zuko and everyone else had been transported into the water by a sort of whirlpool that Aang had created, and they all had fish tails. Sokka had made some comment about "never eating fish again", and they all were forced to go and search for a way to regain their non-fishiness. Aang had vouched to be Toph's constant guide, as the blind girl had no sense of where she was at all without her feet.
And now they were in a club with singing fish.
Zuko watched as his friends danced in the center of the room, seeming to have the time of their lives. Aang had even convinced Toph to go for a few spins, and the tomboyish earthbender seemed to be actually enjoying herself. What Zuko didn't understand was how they could be wasting time partying at a club while they had to get back into their human selves to save the rest of the world from the Fire Nation.
Zuko sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He supposed that he could let them have a bit of fun before reminding them of the task at hand. After all, it wasn't like Sozin's Comet was going to magically appear if they were gone for an hour. Or two hours.
Zuko was jerked out of his thoughts by the sound of girls screaming. Lots of girls. Zuko covered his ears and looked over to find at least half a dozen girls with fishtails identical to the ones Zuko and his friends were sporting. Their screaming only lasted for a second before they all scattered, though. Zuko grabbed the fin of one of the passing fish to get its attention, and the little thing turned around almost in fear, its fins raised up in a defensive manner.
"What was that all about?" he asked, jerking his head towards where the pack of girls had been only moments ago.
The fish looked over to where Zuko had mentioned, and then back at the exiled prince almost incredulously, like he had asked what a rock was.
"Dude, those were the Princesses!" the little fish exclaimed, as if that should explain everything.
Zuko arched an eyebrow at the fact that this little underwater kingdom had royalty, but decided not to inquire more about the ruling anarchy and instead motioned for the guppy to continue.
"And?" Zuko asked.
"Well, they're probably excited to hear music, that's all."
"They've never heard music before?" Zuko asked, arching his eyebrow again.
The fish was gaping at Zuko now.
"What?" Zuko asked.
"Dude! Have you been living with the starfish under their rocks for the past ten years? Music's banned from Atlantica!"
"Music's been banned?" Zuko asked incredulously.
The fish nodded, "Ever since Queen Athena's death."
"Was she killed by music?" Zuko asked.
"No, that's ridiculous: she was killed by humans." The fish explained.
"What does that have to do with music?" Zuko questioned.
The fish shrugged. "I don't know, maybe it reminds King Triton of her too much. I'm Flounder, by the way." The fish said, holding out his flipper.
Zuko looked at it for a second before taking it and shaking. "Zuko," he said.
The fish beamed at him. "Nice to meet you!"
"Flounder!" a clear voice called.
Flounder turned around and smiled at the approaching fish-girl. She had been with the group of Princesses, and Zuko probably would have fallen over had gravity not been so obscure underwater. Atop her head was a mass of red flame that floated around her face, unhindered by the beads and ribbons that Zuko had seen adorned in the other Princess's hair. The fact that she was half-fish was strange enough, but to have hair that color was just unfathomable. Zuko was stunned.
"Flounder! The starfish are starting up limbo! You've got to come and see it!" she almost squealed, jerking Zuko out of his stupor. Zuko shook himself and bowed his head, letting his hair fall in front of his eyes, shielding the rest of the world from his sight.
"Alright! Bye Zuko!" Flounder said before whizzing off to where the tiny sea stars were indeed engaged in a game of limbo. The red-headed girl was about to go and follow him when she seemed to notice Zuko for the first time. She turned her head to look at him fully, and he raised his eyes to meet hers. They were as blue as Katara's, but more full of joy and curiosity.
"Would you like to come too?" the girl inquired.
Zuko shook his head. "Thanks, but no thanks: I'm not much of a party person."
"Then what are you doing here?" the girl asked.
Zuko shrugged. "My friends dragged me along," he said, jerking his head in their direction.
The girl turned to look at them. "The one with the arrow and the guy doing limbo with the starfish?"
Zuko leaned over and saw that Sokka had indeed decided to join the starfish in their game, and chuckled.
"Yep, that's them." He said.
"Why don't you join them?" the girl asked.
"I told you: I don't like parties." Zuko repeated.
"That shouldn't stop you from having a little fun –"
"I said I don't like parties, not that I don't like fun!" Zuko snapped.
The girl recoiled a bit, and then relaxed. She glided over and took a seat next to Zuko, and both were silent for a moment.
"My name's Ariel," the girl whispered.
"I'm Zuko," he replied.
Ariel nodded her head in acknowledgement, and she didn't speak again. However, when the song changed, Ariel's head shot up, a delighted smile on her face.
"Oh! Sebastian's singing!" she cried.
"That little crab?" Zuko asked, looking up at the stage.
Ariel nodded her head, and then she grabbed Zuko's hands and started pulling him towards the center of the room.
"What are you doing?" Zuko asked in alarm.
"Come on! Dance with me!" Ariel laughed.
"Don't tell me you're afraid of dancing?" Ariel said, smiling.
"No, we just don't dance much where I come from." Zuko said defensively.
"We don't here either: music's illegal, remember?" Ariel laughed.
Zuko groaned and let Ariel drag him onto the dance floor. Once they were there, Zuko let out an indignant yelp as Ariel began to spin around him, making him swim in circles. She laughed, and she spun around Zuko again.
"Come on! Lighten up a little, have some fun!" Ariel cried.
"I can have fun! I'm just not a dancer!" Zuko defended.
"Neither is Aquata! But that isn't stopping her!" Ariel laughed, jerking her head towards one of her sisters.
Zuko sighed and consented, realizing that there was no stopping the determined red-head, and tried to make the best of it. At first, he was only trying at best to follow what Ariel was doing, but then, he began to understand the rhythm, and he began to pick up a bit of what Ariel was doing. Zuko found himself actually having fun, and he laughed. Ariel looked up at him, and she smiled and laughed as well.
"See? There's no harm in dancing!" Ariel cried.
"I never said there was," Zuko replied.
Ariel smiled up at him, and then she took his hands and they were spinning again. However, their dancing was stopped by Flounder coming up behind Ariel and tapping her on the shoulder.
"Ariel! Why don't you go up there and sing with Sebastian!" Flounder suggested.
"It's alright, I know how much he loves being up there. I'm fine down here," Ariel said, looking at Zuko and smiling.
"I think Sebastian wants you to, though." Flounder said.
"What makes you say that?" Ariel asked.
"Look behind you," Flounder said.
Ariel and Zuko both did so, and they saw the tiny red crab motioning for Ariel to go up. Ariel looked at Zuko and gave him an apologetic smile.
"I guess I'll go and sing then!" Ariel said before swimming up to beside Sebastian. Almost immediately, they both began to sing.
Shake, shake, shake, Senora
Shake your body line
Shake, shake, shake, Senora
Shake it all the time
Work, work, work, Senora
Work your body line
Work, work, work, Senora
Work it all the time
Zuko looked up at the fish girl and the crab singing and dancing together, and he laughed. It wasn't because it was comedic, though. It was just that the two seemed so happy up there; the joyfulness was starting to rub off on him. He couldn't imagine why anyone would want to ban music, especially when the people could turn it into something so wonderful.
Ariel looked down at Zuko, and she smiled at him. After she finished singing with Sebastian, she swam back down to where he was, and almost immediately she began their dance again.
"Sorry, I just couldn't say no to Sebastian," Ariel said as she twirled around the Fire Nation Prince.
"It's alright, you two were great. I didn't know you could sing." Zuko commented.
"Well, you can't expect to know everything about a person after only knowing them for ten minutes." Ariel giggled.
The two continued to dance, and Zuko was having so much fun that he almost missed Sokka's frantic waving. Zuko stopped and looked over at the Water Tribe Warrior, and then he looked back at Ariel.
"Sorry, my friend over there needs me for a second." Zuko said apologetically.
"It's alright, I'll go up and sing another verse with Sebastian." Ariel said, swimming back up to the stage.
Zuko went over to Sokka, whose eyes seemed to be fixated on the stage.
"Yes, Sokka?" Zuko asked a bit impatiently.
"Who's your friend?" Sokka asked, the tone of his voice hinting that he was hoping he could get some serious dirt to later rub into the fire-bender's face.
Zuko narrowed his eyes. "Ariel."
"Ariel, huh?" Sokka said pensively, looking critically at the singing red-head.
"She's pretty," Sokka commented, using the same suggestive tone he had used earlier.
"What do you want, Sokka?" Zuko asked irritably.
"Nothing, nothing, I just find it a little odd that while we couldn't get you to loosen up, some random fish-girl whose hair I do admit reminds me of fire has managed to get you to dance." Sokka
Zuko narrowed his eyes. "Sokka . . ." he warned.
"Fine, fine, keep your personal life to yourself." Sokka said, crossing his arms and turning his back on the Prince.
Zuko shook his head and was about to go and swim back to Ariel when Aang and Toph appeared.
"What's got you all worked up?" Aang asked.
"Zuko won't tell me about his new girlfriend." Sokka said, looking over his shoulder at said fire-bender and saying the word "girlfriend" with more stress than necessary.
Zuko stopped dead in his tracks and spun around to face Sokka angrily.
"She's not my girlfriend!" Zuko shouted. He half expected the rest of the club to turn around and stare at him in shock like at the café in Ba Sing Se, but the loud music thankfully reserved his outburst for the ears of his friends.
"Who's not your girlfriend? Katara? I thought you were done making cracks about them, Sokka." Aang said, turning to look at the brother of said water-bender.
"No, I'm talking about that girl up there." Sokka said, pointing to Ariel.
Aang looked up at where Sokka had pointed. His eyes widened in shock, and he looked from Ariel, to Zuko, then back to Ariel, then back to Zuko, and then from Ariel to Zuko again.
"She's your girlfriend?" Aang exclaimed.
"What? What? I can't tell a thing! What's so special?" Toph asked, her annoyance at not being able to sense the vibrations coming out.
"She's got red hair, and she's not bad to look at, either." Aang said, his voice full of wonder and unabashed admiration. Great, now the Avatar had puppy love for two girls.
"Not bad to look at? She's absolutely–" Zuko stopped in midsentence when he noticed Sokka's grin, and he glared at him.
"Forget it, and Aang, no, she is not my girlfriend." Zuko said firmly.
"I don't know why you'd want to deny it. I mean, have you looked at her?" Aang asked.
"Oh, he did more than just look at her: he danced with her." Sokka said, a smug grin on his face.
Aang's head snapped from looking in Ariel's direction to looking at Zuko in shock.
"You danced with her? How'd she get you to do that?" Aang asked.
"Sparky was dancing? Man, I would have given anything to have seen that." Toph said, grinning.
"What's going on over here?" Katara asked, coming up to join the group with Suki in tow.
"We're discussing Zuko's new girl –"
"Say that word and you'll be wishing Sozin's Comet were here." Zuko growled, cutting off Sokka.
Katara chuckled. "Come on you guys: just because Zuko was talking with a girl doesn't mean he's romantically involved with her." Katara said.
"Oh, but Zuko wasn't talking with her: he was dancing with her." Sokka said.
Suki and Katara stared at Zuko in shock.
"He was what?" Suki asked.
"You heard me," Sokka said. By now, Zuko was so sick of that smug grin he probably would have shot a flame at Sokka's face had his powers not been useless underwater. But Fate it seems was enjoying torturing Zuko, and decided to make matters a whole lot worse.
"Hey Zuko!" a voice shouted.
Zuko turned around and saw Ariel swimming up to him.
"Hey, Ariel." Zuko said as the princess came to his side.
"Who's your friend, Zuko?" Katara asked. Zuko could tell she was trying hard not to laugh.
Zuko resisted the urge to sigh. "Ariel, these are my friends: Sokka, Aang, Toph, Katara, and Suki. Guys, this is Ariel."
"So, Ariel, we heard you got Zuko to dance," Sokka said, leaning towards the red-head.
Ariel nodded. "Yep. It wasn't easy, though." She said, smiling and giggling.
"Oh, I bet it wasn't," Sokka said, looking up at Zuko, a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
"So, where are you guys from? It's obvious you're not from around here." Ariel said.
Everyone looked at each other, all acknowledging that they would have to be careful: they couldn't assume that the ruling anarchy wasn't on friendly terms with the Fire Nation, and they couldn't assume that the locals were fond of humans, either.
"We, uh . . . . well, we're all from different places, but we met, and, uh, well . . . Katara and I are from down South, Aang is also from the South, but a different place in the South, Toph is from the East and Zuko is from the West." Sokka said.
"Actually, I'm more of a nomad. I was raised by monks." Aang said.
"Wow! You all have been to a lot places." Ariel said almost wistfully.
"You don't get out much, do you?" Katara asked.
Ariel shook her head. "No, Daddy normally takes Attina on the political trips, and he hasn't had much of those lately, so she hasn't been able to tell me about the outside world. What's it like out there?" Ariel asked.
"Different from here. Hey! It looks like Zuko wants to dance again! Why don't you take him for a spin Ariel?" Sokka suggested.
Zuko glared at the boy from the Southern Water Tribe, and he probably would have said something had a multitude of guards not burst in. Everyone screamed, and the octopus playing the piano let out a burst of ink, shrouding everything in darnkess. Instinctively, Zuko covered Ariel and placed himself between her and the guards. But once the ink cleared, everyone in the club had been surrounded.
Zuko was unaware that he was still shielding Ariel until they were ripped apart by a large muscular man with a fish tail, carrying a giant three-pronged staff and wearing a golden crown atop his head.
"Get your hands off my daughter!" the man shouted.
"Daddy!" Ariel protested.
Zuko didn't have to look to know that everyone else in his group was staring at him. He could almost hear Sokka now: So, the King's daughter, huh? He would never hear the end of this.
"This is how you watch over my daughter?" the King demanded, turning towards Sebastian.
"Sire, I –"
"I trusted you," the King growled.
"Sire," Sebastian said, looking down.
"Guards! Lock him away!" the King shouted, pointing his staff at the tiny crab. Immediately, the swordfish lined up behind the King swam towards Sebastian.
"What? No!" Ariel cried.
"Lock them all away!" the King demanded.
"But your Majesty! Please!" Sebastian begged.
"Come on, let's move it," a swordfish said, poking at Sebastian.
"You too hotshot," another one said, nudging at Zuko. The fire-bender desperately wished that he had access to his powers, and he probably would have used the strength he had acquired through years of hard training had there not been something about the King, a sense of strong ominous power that mad Zuko stop. He could tell his friends felt it too, because neither Aang nor Katara were attempting to use their bending, and Suki and Sokka weren't putting up a fight either. So Zuko let the guards push him into the group that was already being ushered towards the door.
"I never thought I would have been captured by fish," Toph muttered.
"This is all your fault! Why'd you have to hit on the King's daughter? Sokka hissed at Zuko.
"Shut up," Zuko grumbled, not in the mood.
"Father! You can't do this!" Ariel pleaded, and Zuko could tell from the quivering of her voice that she was close to tears. And yet, there still was the strength of defiance in her tone, too.
"It's already done!" the King shouted.
"But hey, at least you chose the rebellious one: maybe she'll bust us out!" Sokka said brightly.
"Keep swimming!" one of the swordfish shouted.
"Put a sock in it pointy-nose!" Sokka shouted back.
"Shut up Sokka!" Katara hissed.
As they neared the tunnel that led up to the kelp forest, the entire cavern shuddered and moaned. Zuko turned around in alarm – as did everyone else – and he saw the King pointing his blazing staff at the entrance to the club, a beam of intense light coming from it and completely destroying what had been these creatures' only source of music.
"That was some powerful mojo he used, wasn't it?" Toph asked.
"Yeah, yeah it was," Sokka whispered.
"What did we get ourselves into?" Aang asked.
Silently, Zuko was asking himself the same question.
So far, they had only been in that jail cell for few hours, and already, Zuko was starting to feel hopeless. None of them could use their bending (fire didn't work underwater, Toph and Aang needed their feet, Katara was already underwater and bubbles wouldn't help, and air wouldn't be of much use either) and the bars were solid. They had been put in the same cell as the band, the fish Flounder, and the crab Sebastian. The piano-playing octopus named Ink Spot was freaking out, the turtle named Shelbow was trying to saw through the bars, and the green saxophone-playing fish named Cheeks was trying to dig his way out. All in all, chances of escape were slim with this group.
"Come on guys! Dis looks a lot worse dan it is! I'll just get an audience with de King, and I'll fix it!" Sebastian said.
"Now, no offense, man, but you had ten years to fix it, and this is where we end up?" Shelbow asked.
"In jail," Ink Spot said.
Instantly, the group of fish huddled together, and there was the sound of chattering and grumbling. Zuko and his friends swam up to join the huddle, but the conversation was already finished by the time they arrived. The group split up, and Ray-Ray took the lead.
"The band has talked it up, see, and we want you to . . ."
"Slip through the bars!" Cheeks said.
"Use your claws to pick the lock man," Shelbow added.
"And open that door!" Ink Spot finished.
The group of fish began high-fiving each other, all congratulating each other on the plan. Zuko and his friends all looked at each other, and they nodded. The plan was sound. It would work.
"No! Bad plan! If we break out of dis jail, dere'll be no coming back, mon! We'll be fugitives!"
Once more, Zuko and his friends looked at each other: that might not matter to them, but what about the fish? This was their home, would they be willing to give it up so easily?
"That's cool," Ray-Ray said.
"Yeah, that works," Cheeks said.
"Alright by me," Ink Spot said.
"What's a fugitive?" Flounder asked.
"What about Ariel? You just gonna abandon her? Leave her to deal with all we tangled her up in?" Sebastian asked.
Sokka swam up to Zuko's side, that same smug smile on his face.
"Don't. Say. Anything." Zuko growled.
Sokka looked at Zuko in mock surprise and innocence.
"You tink dat small, weak, innocent, helpless little girl can do anyting by herself?" Sebastain asked.
All the while Sebastain was saying this, Zuko looked over the tiny crab's shoulder and noticed – to his surprise – said mermaid swimming up behind the crab, a large rock in her hand. With a determined look, she brought the rock up and smashed it on the lock, breaking it. Sebastain jumped in surprise and turned around to face the red-head.
"You call that helpless?" Katara asked.
"Ariel?" Sebastain squeaked.
"Come on guys, let's go," Ariel said with determination, opening the door.
"I'm with her," Shelbow said.
"Looks like your girlfriend came through," Sokka said, smiling at Zuko. The prince merely glared in response.
"If we run away from Atlantica, it will break your Fader's heart!" Sebastian said.
"I'm sorry, I just can't live here." Ariel replied.
"I'm with the red-head!" Sokka shouted.
"Yeah! Let's go!" Ink Spot agreed.
But Sebastian pulled the door from Ariel's hands and slammed it shut.
"Did he just close that door?" Toph asked.
"Listen! I will not be responsible for taking you away from your family!" Sebastian shouted.
"I'm leaving! With or without you!" Ariel replied, re-opening the door.
"All right!" Ray-Ray shouted.
But once more, Sebastian pried the door away from Ariel, but as he closed it, he accidentally left himself outside of the cell.
"Nobody's leaving!" Sebastian shouted, but then he saw that he was out of the cell and let out a shriek.
"Except you," Shelbow said.
"Hey! My name's Nobody! Can I go now?" Sokka asked.
"Look, Sebastian, without music, this place just isn't home." Ariel said.
"You know she ain't lyin'." Shelbow said.
"Ain't no comeback to that!" Ray-Ray agreed.
"Hmm, she's leaving behind her family, Royal Position, and her home for what she believes in. Remind you of anybody?" Sokka taunted at Zuko.
"If I could fire-bend right now, you wouldn't be smiling," Zuko growled.
"Sokka, leave Zuko alone." Katara said, putting her hand on her brother's shoulder.
Sokka huffed. "Fine," he grumbled.
Katara smiled at her brother, and then looked at Zuko with a twinkle in her eye. "Though, I do admit, Zuko, she does remind me of you," she said.
Zuko growled, and he probably would have said something had a scream from Sebastian not jerked everyone's attention back to the crab and the mergirl.
"Are you okay?" Ariel asked in alarm.
"Ariel! You're right! Without music, dis place just isn't home." Sebastian said.
"I know just where to go!" Sebastian declared, and in their excitement, the group of sea-creatures burst through the door, smashing Sebastian against the wall. Ariel giggled, and gently pried Sebastian off. She turned to Zuko and smiled.
"I'm sorry I got you all involved in this," she said apologetically.
"It's alright: we should have known better than to follow a fish to a place so well hidden it had to be illegal." Zuko replied. Behind him, Zuko heard the distinct sound of Sokka making kissy noises.
"Come on, we'd better keep going if we don't want them to leave us behind," Ariel said, gesturing for the others to follow.
Zuko followed her, but not before heard Sokka whisper to the rest of the group.
"Don't look now guys, but I think Zuko's in loooooaaaaaaaaaaahhh!" Sokka screamed, his sentence being cut off by a jet of some extremely hot water being sent towards him. Zuko smiled: his fire-bending wasn't completely gone after all.
They had managed to get out of Atlantica and were now traveling through the sandy planes discretely. Well, almost discretely. Flounder kept on loudly humming and making his own music, singing his own adventure theme, and being as loud as could be. Zuko could tell that Sokka was about ready to hit that little fish with his boomerang. And Zuko didn't blame him: the kid had no understanding of the term "sneaking".
Finally, Shelbow snapped.
"Hey! Kid! Ixnay on the soundtrack!" he shouted.
"Why?" Flounder asked.
"Why? Why? Why? Try jail!" Ink Spot screamed.
"The big house!"
"Music is against the law: you dig?" Ray-Ray asked.
"Not out here," Flounder said, smiling.
Everyone stood in shock, processing what Flounder had just said.
"We are far enough away that no one would hear us . . ." Suki said hesitantly.
"Come on! We ran away so we could sing! And I'm singing," Flounder said before continuing his previous music-making.
"You know, the kid's striking a major chord," Shelbow said appreciatively.
"I feel it! I feel it!" Cheeks shouted.
"I feel doomed," Sokka grumbled.
"Come on Sokka! Lighten up a little: they're finally free to make music all they want!" Aang said.
Meanwhile, the other fish had managed to convince Ray-Ray to join in on Flounder's singing, and soon, everyone else was singing as well.
Sha-na-na, na, na, na, na
Na, na, na, na, na, na
Shake, shake, shake, Senora!
Shake your body line!
"Shake your body line!" Ariel sang before swimming up to Zuko.
"Come on! Sing with us! Your friends are," Ariel said, guesturing at Aang, Toph, Katara, Sokka, and Suki, all of which had indeed started singing with the rest of the fish.
Zuko sighed. "I suppose saying that I'm not much of a singer won't stop you?" he asked.
"Nope!" Ariel said, pulling Zuko by the hands towards the rest of the group.
Zuko sighed. "I don't know . . ."
"You didn't think you'd like dancing, either, remember?" Ariel reminded him.
"Dancing is one thing, but singing . . ."
"You'll look silly by not doing it, since you'll be the only one." Ariel said.
Zuko sighed, and he relented and began to reluctantly sing with the rest of the group, though he kept his voice low.
Work, work, work, Senora!
Work your body line!
"See! It's not that bad!" Ariel cried, laughing.
Zuko smiled, and he began to sing with a little more confidence.
Work, work, work, Senora!
Work it all the time!
"Let's break it down!" Flounder shouted.
Jump-J-J-Jump in the line
And rock your body on time
"There he goes again," Ray-Ray said.
Jump-J-J-Jump in the line
And rock your body on time
"Let me try now," Ray-Ray said, swimming up beside Flounder so that both were singing.
Jump-J-J-Jump in the line
And rock your body on time
"We're in!" Everyone shouted, joining in.
Jump in the line!
Jump in the line!
Rock your body on time!
"I love this freedom!" the octopus shouted.
"So, she got you to sing, too?" Sokka asked, coming up beside Zuko as the others continued to sing.
"I sure did!" Ariel cried, coming up between them.
"It's all part of my master plan," she whispered to Sokka.
Sokka nodded his head in understanding, and then winked at Zuko before swimming off to Suki's side.
"Do I want to know?" Zuko asked.
"My master plan? Oh, that was just to get Sokka off your back," Ariel said, giggling.
"Thanks," Zuko said.
"Don't mention it," Ariel replied.
"You two aren't singing!" Ink Spot shouted back at them.
Ariel and Zuko both looked at each other, shrugged, and joined back in the joyful singing.
They had been swimming for hours now, having given up singing a while back, too exhausted and spent, deciding to save their energy for swimming. Zuko had seen a few sites that looked like promising resting-places, but Sebastian mercilessly pressed them on. Zuko wasn't complaining: he could hold on for a few more hours if need be, but Flounder, Ariel, and Toph looked like they could fall down at any moment. And Flounder was being as annoying as he could possibly be.
"Are we there yet?" Flounder asked.
"No," was Sebastian's reply.
"Are we there yet?" Flounder asked again.
"No," Sebastian repeated.
"Are we there yet?"
"Are we there yet?"
"If that fish says 'are we there yet' again I'm going to . . ." Sokka growled, his patience wearing thin.
"Are we there yet?"
"Yes," Sebastian said, making everyone stop dead in their tracks.
"This is it," Sebastian announced.
Zuko looked at the terrain with doubt. It was flat and bare except for a few rocks and some straggly pieces of seaweed. For a campsite, it was good. For a place to live in and call home, not so much.
"Are you sure?" Flounder asked.
"Yes," Sebastian said, seeming pleased with himself.
"Are you sure?" Ray-Ray said, repeating Flounder's question.
"Yes," Sebastian replied again.
"Are you s –"
"Yes!" Sebastain yelled, cutting off Ariel.
"This is what we've been swimming for hours to find?" Sokka asked incredulously.
"Yes," Sebastian said.
"Oh man, we can't live here!" Ink Spot screamed.
"Yeah, this place is all 'Oom pa-pa, oom pa-pa.' We need some: –" and Shelbow began to make some drumbeat sounds.
"Nonsense. It's perfect." Sebastian said.
"For a crab maybe," Sokka muttered.
"Just listen to dem acoustics: do re mi fa so la ti do." Sebastian said, the do echoing throughout to plain.
"Solid," Sebastian said, satisfied.
"It sounds like there's good rock here: I might be able to see a bit," Toph said.
"Well yippee for you," Sokka said glumly.
"Well, it beats the dungeon." Ray-Ray said, following Sebastian out to the plain.
"But not by much!" Cheeks said, Flounder and he following Ray-Ray.
"It'll do for the time being. 'Scuse me," Shelbow said before retreating into his shell. Ink Spot attached himself to the underside of a rock and Ray-Ray buried himself in sand, Flounder trying to follow in suite, but ending up just choking on sand instead. Aang gently led Toph to a nice big rock, and she practically threw herself on it, embracing the stone.
"Yes! Finally something I can see with! Man, this place is bare!" Toph exclaimed.
"Tell me about it," Sokka said, leaning against the side of the rock.
"Aang, do you feel anything special about the place? Something spiritual or powerful that would make Sebastian want to come here?" Katara asked.
Aang closed his eyes and concentrated, but he only opened them and shook his head. "No, nothing, it's just an ordinary piece of land."
"Well, we won't be staying here for long anyways, will we? I mean, we need to find a way to reverse this spell." Suki pointed out.
"Yeah, there's no way I'm staying like this: being blind sucks." Toph said.
"Maybe we should go back to the shore and try to find that shell: it might give us a hint." Katara suggested.
"What do you think Zuko?" Aang asked, turning to the exiled prince.
"Don't bother him Aang: he's sad that he's going to have to leave his girlfriend behind." Sokka said, trying to lift up his mood by poking fun at Zuko.
The fire-bender bristled, and he rounded on Sokka angrily.
"Sokka, SHUT UP!" he shouted, the water around him starting to boil.
"Zuko! Calm down! And Sokka, quit it." Katara said, glaring at her brother. Sokka grumbled but turned on his side fell asleep. Zuko continued to glare at the brother of the water-bender, but his temper cooled, as did the water surrounding him.
"Come on, we're all tired, and we need some rest. I suggest we all lie down and try to sleep." Katara said soothingly. Sokka grumbled something, and Zuko was certain that he heard the words "Zuko" and "girlfriend", but before the Fire Nation prince could do anything, Katara turned sharply to her brother.
"Don't make me come over there," she threatened.
Sokka grumbled something else, but the words were unintelligible. Zuko sighed, and lay down in the soft sand, resting his head on a rock. It wasn't the most comfortable of sleeping arrangements, but Zuko had been in worst circumstances when he and his Uncle Iroh were running from Azula and the Fire Nation. Zuko shifted around a bit closed his eyes, willing himself to fall asleep. His momentary peace, however, was ruined by the sound of Flounder beat-boxing.
"Knock it off," Zuko snapped, not at all surprised to hear everyone else saying the same thing with him.
"Sorry," Flounder said timidly.
Zuko sighed, and somehow managed to fall asleep.
"Zuko, Zuko wake up!" a hushed voice said.
"I don't care about the stupid lemur Sokka," Zuko grumbled.
"Zuko! It's me: Ariel! There's something out there!" the voice whispered urgently.
Zuko's eyes popped open, and he sat up immediately, his forehead colliding with Ariel's. They both yelped in pain, and Zuko rubbed his forehead where he was sure a mark was developing.
"What's out there?" Zuko asked.
"I don't know, but I'm going to go check it out. Want to come with me?" Ariel asked.
Zuko noted the almost excited tone to her voice, and he decided that if it was something dangerous, she would be totally unprepared. Zuko sighed at the prospect of losing some sleep, but he gently floated up to an upright position.
"Alright, show me where it is."
Ariel smiled and took Zuko's hand, swimming off in the direction of two mountain-like rocks. They approached the gap between the two boulders, and found a sort of forest of kelp with a glow emitting from it. Ariel hesitated a bit, but she braced herself and swam into kelp, leaving an exasperated Zuko behind her. That girl was going to get herself killed someday with her recklessness. Zuko reluctantly followed her, and he came into a cavern full of stones that were so polished that they were literally like mirrors.
Ariel looked around, delighted, and Zuko found himself somewhat impressed with the place. It might not have had any spiritual significance, but the place certainly was stunning. Zuko swam up next to Ariel who was still looking around in wonder.
"It's beautiful," Ariel whispered in awe.
"It sure is," Zuko agreed.
Zuko continued to look around at the stones, but started when he felt Ariel leave his side. He turned and found her transfixed with something on the ground.
"What is it?" Zuko asked, swimming up beside the princess.
Wordlessly, Ariel reached down and picked up what appeared to be some kind of box, simple in design yet still beautiful. Zuko found nothing extraordinary about it, but it seemed to enchant the red-head. In a trance, Ariel slid her slender hand to the top of the box and opened it. Golden dust shimmered out of it, and then a small brass couple appeared in it: both merfolk, dancing together to a lovely yet somehow bittersweet tune.
"It's a music box," Zuko said.
"Not just any music box," Ariel said, her voice full of sorrow. And Zuko was sure that had they not been underwater, she would have been crying.
"It was my mother's," Ariel whispered.
Zuko instantly sympathized with the girl, and he slid down to sit next to her.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"Daddy gave it to her on the day she was killed," Ariel said.
"I know what it's like to lose a mother," Zuko said.
"You do?" Ariel asked, looking up at him, blue eyes meeting gold.
Zuko nodded. "One day, she just disappeared." He said, remembering running to the pond that they would always sit at, and finding his father, but no mother.
"I'm sorry," Ariel whispered.
"It's alright, it was a long time ago. I've healed." Zuko said.
Ariel nodded, turning her eyes back to the music box.
"That's the problem with my father," Ariel said.
"What?" Zuko asked.
"He never healed: his heart's still there, on that day. He hasn't let go. That's why he outlawed music, that's why we're forbidden from going to the surface: the pain's still fresh." Ariel said.
Zuko sat there in silence for a moment, remembering how the pain of his banishment had remained fresh in him until only a few weeks ago. He had been foolish, and angry then, letting his emotions cloud his judgment and his conscience, forgetting who he was. He knew exactly what was going on inside the King right now.
And he knew it was tearing Triton apart.
"Then we'd better help him heal," Zuko said.
Ariel turned to face the prince, shock apparent on her face. But then, it faded, and was replaced with joy and gratefulness. Without warning, Ariel threw her arms around Zuko's neck in an embrace.
"Thank you," she whispered.
Zuko went rigid for a moment, but then he slowly returned the hug, wrapping his arms around her slender body and burying his face in her red hair.
"You're welcome," Zuko whispered.
After a while, the two broke apart, and Ariel looked down at the music box before raising her gaze back to Zuko's face.
"We should tell Sebastian," she said.
"I already know," came a voice.
Ariel and Zuko turned around in surprise, and found the tiny crab standing on a rock, a knowing smile on his face.
"Sebastian: you've got to understand –" Ariel began, but Sebastian cut her off with a wave of his claw.
"I do," he said.
Ariel looked at Sebastian in surprise, but then slowly, a smile crept onto her lips.
"This is why we came here, isn't it?" Ariel asked.
By way of answer, Sebastian just gave Ariel an almost sheepish smile, revealing his surprisingly large teeth.
"Come on, we should tell the others," Zuko said.
Ariel looked up at Zuko and smiled before nodding her head and swimming back towards the kelp forest.
"She's so much like her moder," Sebastian said.
Zuko looked down at the red crab.
"She is?" he asked.
Sebastian nodded. "She looks almost exactly like Queen Atena, and she's just as free spirited as well."
Zuko looked at where Ariel had departed. "King Triton must miss her very much," he said, meaning both Ariel and Athena.
Sebastian nodded. "He's a good King, and he loves his daughters very much. He's just forgotten how to show it."
"Then let's hope Ariel can make him remember," Zuko said before starting to swim towards the exit.
Sebastian nodded, and followed Zuko. But before they entered the kelp forest, the crab looked over at Zuko slyly.
"Oh, and don't tink I don't know about you and Ariel," he said.
Zuko stopped dead in his tracks. "What?" he asked.
Sebastian chuckled. "Oh, don't try to hide it from me lad: I'm not so old dat I can't see tings as clear as dis!" Sebastian said.
"I'm serious, nothing's going on between me and Ariel." Zuko insisted.
Sebastian chuckled again. "Don't worry: you seem like a good lad, and you might even nock some sense into dat hard head of hers. But it's not me you're gonna have to worry about." Sebastian said before swimming off.
Zuko stared after the crab incredulously.
"Why does everyone think we're dating?"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, let me get this straight: you led us out here . . ."
"To the armpit of nowhere man."
"I the hope that Red might find the music box, and now you want to go back to the palace . . ."
"To return the music box to the king . . ."
"On the chance that maybe it'll . . ."
"Remind him to remember how to be happy . . ."
"And then he'll bring music back?"
"Dat about sums it up." Sebastian said, looking at Ariel and Zuko and smiling.
"Couldn't we just strap it to a dolphin or something? He'd get it eventually," Cheeks said.
The members of the band looked at each other, and then they huddled up, whispering. Behind them, Zuko's friends were lingering, and the Fire Prince already knew what their decision would be.
Once the huddle finally broke apart, Ray-Ray hesitantly came to the front.
"Listen, the band talked it over, and . . ."
"We just can't take that chance," Shelbow said.
"What?" Sebastian exclaimed.
"Huh?" said Flounder.
Zuko just sighed: he knew that they wouldn't agree to it, and neither would his friends. It was too risky, and they weren't willing to put their lives on the line just to make the king remember how to be happy.
"It's okay, maybe someday it'll be different: you'll come home and play music all you want." Ariel said optimistically. In that moment, Zuko knew that Ariel had known from the start that the band wouldn't come. She wasn't as naïve as he thought.
Ray-Ray sighed. "Sure, Red, someday. Someday."
"Bye," Ariel said before starting to swim back to Atlantica, Zuko and Sebastian behind her.
"Zuko! Where are you going?" Aang asked.
Zuko turned around to face the Airbender.
"I'm going with Ariel: I'll catch up with you guys later." He said.
"Zuko, I know you like Ariel and all, but don't you think that Sozin's Comet is a little more pressing?" Sokka asked.
Zuko sighed. "Sokka, you don't understand –"
"Oh, I understand alright: you're trying to impress the little princess here. Zuko, there are other pretty girls out there, more fish in the –"
"I won't see a family torn apart like mine was!" Zuko shouted.
Sokka stared at Zuko in shock, but the Firebender just turned around and started swimming. But a hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"I've made up my mind," Zuko said.
"I know, but I'm coming with you," came Aang's voice.
Zuko turned around to face the monk in surprise, as did everyone else in their group.
"Aang, what are you doing?" Katara asked.
"Yeah, Sozin's Comet, remember?" Sokka reminded him.
"The Comet isn't going to be here for a while Sokka. And besides: I'm the Avatar, it's my job to bring peace. And right now, I'd say Atlantica is in need of it." Aang said.
"Then I'm coming too," Katara said after a pause.
"You don't have to do this," Aang said.
"I know, I want to." Katara said.
"I think I'll go with them too," Toph said.
"I thought you wanted get out of here as fast as possible!" Sokka exclaimed.
"I do, but they're less likely to lose me – no offense Sokka," Toph said.
Sokka sighed and turned to look at his girlfriend.
"What about you, Suki?" he asked.
"I'll go wherever you go," she said.
"But you really want to go with them, don't you?" Sokka asked.
Sokka sighed. "Then I guess we're all going."
Zuko looked at his friends and smiled. "Thanks guys," he said.
"Don't thank me yet: I'm going to take extra care to make as many girlfriend jokes as I can," Sokka warned.
"Zuko, are you staying behind?" Ariel asked.
Zuko turned around to face the mermaid, and he was surprised to find a worried look in her eyes: she must have been afraid that he had changed his mind. Quickly, Zuko shook his head, and he saw the relief flood through her eyes.
"And neither are we," Aang said.
Ariel looked at the group in surprise, and a smile broke out on her face.
"Thank you so much: you don't know how much this means to me." Ariel said.
"It's the least we could do," Katara said.
Ariel smiled at the Waterbender, and then gestured for them to follow her.
"Come on: we don't want Sebastian to leave us behind." She said.
"But wouldn't it be convenient if he did?" Sokka grumbled.
"Hey! Don't leave without me!" Flounder shouted, practically ramming into Ariel.
"Flounder! You're coming too?" Ariel asked, delighted.
The yellow fish nodded. "You bet!" he said.
Ariel smiled, and then once more gestured for the others to follow her. As Zuko started swimming, Sokka came up next to him, that smug grin on his face again.
"Looks like you've got some competition lover-boy," he teased.
"What are you talking about?" Zuko asked.
"Your girlfriend and Flounder seem pretty close," Sokka said.
Zuko glared at him. "She's not my girlfriend, and he's a fish," Zuko said.
Sokka shrugged. "So? She's half fish."
"He's just a kid," Zuko said.
"Ooh, getting a little touchy, are we?" Sokka asked.
"Why don't you go and flirt with Suki?" Zuko asked.
Sokka's eyes brightened at the mention of his girlfriend. "I might just do that!" he said before swimming back to join the Kyoshi Warrior.
Zuko sighed and shook his head. "He's really easily distracted, isn't he?" a voice asked.
Zuko looked up and saw that Ariel had taken Sokka's place, and was swimming next to the Firebender.
"Any mention of a pretty girl or food and all thoughts of the previous conversation fly out the window," Zuko said.
Ariel giggled. "He sounds like my sister, Adella: when it comes to boys she forgets all else,"
"Remind me to avoid her. What are your other sisters like?" Zuko asked.
Ariel stopped and thought about it for a moment. "Well, Attina's the oldest, so she spends most of her time bossing people around and acting like she's always right. Arista and Aquata fight all the time, Andrina's always making sarcastic comments, and Alana's obsessed with her appearance." Ariel said.
"I guess you don't get your rebellious streak from your sisters then," Zuko said wryly.
Ariel smiled and shook her head. "No, everyone says I get that from mom."
"You miss her, don't you?" Zuko asked.
Ariel nodded. "I don't remember that much about her, but I do know that Atlantica was such a happy place when she was here, and that everyone loved her." She said wistfully.
"What's your family like?" Ariel asked after a moment of silence.
"Messed up," Zuko said.
"How so?" Ariel asked.
"My father thinks I'm a failure and my sister's insane." Zuko said, not wanting to elaborate.
Zuko felt Ariel's eyes on him, but he kept his eyes trained on the ground, not wanting to see her sympathetic look. He didn't want her pity right now: he didn't want anyone's pity.
"You're not a failure," Ariel whispered.
"How do you know?" Zuko asked, still refusing to look at her.
"I can tell," Ariel replied.
Zuko finally mustered up the courage to look up into her deep blue eyes, and found not sympathy, but overwhelming compassion. She cared for him, and she hardly knew him. It was then that Zuko realized that Ariel would be one of the best friends he had ever made.
"I don't remember dis much kelp when we came trough here last night," Sebastian said, interrupting Zuko's thoughts.
One of said pieces of underwater vegetation nocked into Ariel, causing her to bump into Zuko.
"Even the kelp knows you two are in love," Sokka commented.
"Kelp schmelp. I ain't afraid of these overgrown weeds," Flounder declared before attacking the seaweed with battle cries and many "take that!"'s. However, one piece of kelp he hit didn't tear like the others did, and Flounder stared at it in confusion. Frowing, he attacked it again, but it still remained in one piece.
Suddenly – as if the same thought occurred to everyone – they all looked up, and saw not the tops of kelp, but heads of very vicious-looking eels.
"Guys, that ain't kelp," Sebastian squeaked.
The eels leered down at the group, and Zuko placed himself in front of Ariel, and saw that Aang and Katara had also moved to the front with him, set in their battle stances. Before they could attack though, a middle-aged mermaid in a very odd purple out-fit appeared in front of the eels.
"Surprise!" she shouted.
"Marina! What are you wearing?" Sebastian asked after giving her clothes a once-over.
"I thought I'd dress for the occasion," Marina said, lounging on the eels like they weren't ferocious beasts.
"What's the occasion?" Sebastian asked.
By way of answer, Marina pulled out a small net, and smiled evilly at Sebastian. The crab gasped and began wildly motioning for everyone to run.
"Go! Go! Go! Go!" Sebastian cried.
"Sic 'em boys!" Marina shouted.
"You guys go ahead! We'll hold them off!" Zuko shouted.
"But – " Ariel began.
"We'll be fine! Now go!" Zuko demanded.
Ariel gave Zuko a fleeting glance before swimming away.
"How sweet and romantic," Marina gushed with false sweetness.
"Sweet and romantic enough that you'll call off your eels?" Sokka asked hopefully.
"No. Attack!" Marina screamed!
"Sokka! You and Suki get Toph to safety: you won't be any use without bending down here!" Katara shouted as she began to ward off eels.
"What?" Sokka asked incredulously.
"Just do as she says Sokka!" Suki shouted, taking Toph's hand and swimming in the direction that Ariel Flounder and Sebastian had gone in.
Sokka huffed. "Fine," he grumbled before swimming off.
Meanwhile, Zuko had been preoccupied with shooting jets of extremely hot water at the eels, though it seemed to be doing little damage. Katara and Aang seemed to be having similar luck.
"We can't hold them off!" Aang shouted.
"Then there's only one thing we can do!" Katara shouted.
"What?" Zuko and Aang asked.
"Swim!" Katara screamed.
The three immediately swam off in the direction that their friends had, the eels hot on their tails. Just as one of the creatures was nearing on Zuko, a rock flew out of nowhere and hit it in the head, sending it flying into its comrades. Zuko looked up in surprise and saw Ariel swimming towards him.
"I told you to go and hide!" Zuko cried.
"Never been one to listen to directions," Ariel reminded him.
"Uh, can you guys save the love-talk for later?" Sokka asked, pointing behind them. They all looked, and saw that the eels were quickly recovering, crackling with the electricity.
"Split up!" Aang shouted, taking Katara's hand and swimming off in another direction. Not needing to be told twice, Zuko grabbed Ariel's arm and swam off in the direction of some tunnels, hoping to avoid the eels in there. But they soon found themselves at a dead-end, and Zuko and Ariel looked in fear as two eels slowly neared them.
"Oh no," Ariel moaned. But Ariel and Zuko both yelled in surprise as purple tentacles surrounded them, and lifted them from the hole. They looked up in surprise and found the octopus Ink Spot was their savior.
"Now!" Ink Spot cried. Zuko and Ariel looked up, and saw Cheeks with a pointy shell on his head, being loaded into a make-shift sling-shot – with Ray-Ray as the base – by Shelbow.
"Fire," Ray-Ray said.
With a grunt, Shelbow released, and Cheeks went flying towards a column of rock, cracking it and causing it to domino effect the pillars in front of it and plugging up the hole that Ariel and Zuko had emerged from, just as the eels began to rise from it.
"Ooh, they hurtin' for certain," Ray-Ray said.
Ariel and Zuko both grinned at each other, but they stopped when they noticed that the rest of the band was smiling at them.
"You two – uh – gettin' comfortable in there?" Ray-Ray asked.
Ariel and Zuko both averted their eyes from each other, and Ariel gasped.
"Sebastian's in trouble!" she cried, swimming out from the octopus's tentacles.
Zuko followed in suite, and noticed that the little crab was indeed preoccupied in an almost comedic fight with the mermaid Marina.
"Let's go!" Zuko shouted, swimming towards the crab, Ariel and the band behind him. But it appears that they weren't the only ones with that idea, for the group suddenly crashed into Flounder, Suki, Sokka, Toph, Aang, and Katara, who had all also been trying to help the little crab. In the tumble, the music box loosened itself from Ariel's grip, and went falling into a crater.
"The music box!" Ariel cried, diving after it.
"Ariel!" Zuko shouted, and he made to go after her, but the sudden reappearance off all the eels. Zuko glared at the eels, then grabbed one by the muzzle, and gathering as much electricity as he could from the creature, he redirected what lightening he could find at the group of eels, sending them flying into a wall of rock, and then tossed the energy-depleted creature he had used aside. Zuko turned around and found his friends and the band staring incredulously at him.
"Woah," was all Flounder could say.
"You scare me sometimes," Sokka said.
"Let's go!" Zuko shouted, swimming towards Ariel. He soon caught up with her – as did the rest of their group – but the eels were quick to recover, and they all found themselves cornered, with no place to swim.
"Now would be a good time for you to do that fancy lightening-thing again Zuko," Sokka said.
"If I do it again I won't have enough energy to swim away!"
"That's why it's called sacrifice," Sokka said.
"Enough!" Aang shouted, and with a quick, powerful flick of his tail, the Avatar sent a wave of air – or water, it was impossible to tell down here – at the eels, sending them flying backwards and into another wall. But this time, it caused the rock to shudder, and the eels were soon buried under a pile of stones.
There was a period of shocked silence, and then everyone erupted into cheers. Soon, Sebastian joined them – having apparently won his fight with Marina. Ariel laughed and hugged Zuko.
"We did it!" she cried.
They laughed and broke away from each other, and it was clear that Aang was getting most of the thanks, though some of the members of the band came up and commented on Zuko's display of redirecting-lightening. However, amidst the celebration, Zuko looked up and saw Marina, encased in a sort of tube of rock, come hurtling towards Sebastian. But Zuko wasn't the only one who noticed.
"Sebastian! Look out!" Ariel cried, rushing at her friend.
"Ariel! No!" Zuko shouted, not noticing that someone else had shouted the exact same thing. But it was too late. Ariel rammed into Marina, knocking her off her course towards the crab. But Ariel continued to fall, and she collapsed on the canyon floor.
It seemed like time had stopped, and all Zuko could do was just float there in shocked silence. Katara moved towards Ariel – no doubt to use her healing powers – but Aang stopped her, and gave her a meaningful look. Sokka wordlessly put an arm around Suki's shoulders, and the Kyoshi warrior embraced her boyfriend. But Zuko noticed none of that, he just continued to stare down at the body of the fallen mermaid. Something pushed past him, and Zuko looked up in surprise to see King Triton swimming towards his daughter, grief clear on his face. Slowly, everyone followed him down to where Ariel lay, and they watched solemnly as the King gently picked up his daughter's body. As Trtion lifted her, Ariel's hand shifted, and the music box came tumbling onto the ground, opening and playing its mournful tune.
"What have I done?" the King asked in a hushed whisper.
No one answered, and King Triton continued to stare at his daughter, the melody coming from the music box seeming to only intensify his greif.
"Endless sky," the King whispered. He spoke so quietly, that Zuko barely heard him, and he slowly realized that the King was singing along with the box.
"Waves try to measure, the days that we treasure . . ." the King continued to sing. He sang in a stilted awkward way that was probably due to years of being out of practice, and the immense sadness he must have been feeling. The sadness that Zuko himself was feeling right now. He had only known Ariel for a short period of time, and yet she still had managed to touch him in a way that no one had since his mother disappeared. She made him remember who he was, and he had felt like all those years of suffering and pain and confusion had never happened, like he was ten again.
Unable to bear the sight of Ariel's limp body any longer, Zuko turned his head away and closed his eyes, trying to rid his mind of the image of her lifeless form. It seemed like all the people that cared for him, that he cared for got hurt: his mother, Uncle Iroh, and now Ariel. Was he to forever be unloved?
"Daddy?" a weak voice asked, making Zuko turn his head in surprise. And, miraculously, there was Ariel, weak and frail but alive. King Triton was staring down at her in amazement and joy.
"I'm . . . I'm sorry so sorry I didn't listen, I'm sorry . . ." King Triton began, but Ariel cut him off by embracing him.
"Daddy," she sighed.
"Let's go home," she said after breaking away from him.
Everyone sighed, and Zuko looked over at his friends.
"We should get going," Sokka said.
Aang nodded. "We need to get back," he agreed.
Zuko looked down, but nodded his head in agreement.
"Oh no, you aren't leaving yet," a deep voice said.
Everyone turned around and saw King Triton looking down at them.
"Your Majesty?" Aang asked.
"You helped bring my daughter back to me: I absolutely insist that you stay in Atlantica. At least, long enough to attend the ceremony," King Triton said.
"What ceremony?" Katara asked.
"I need to officially announce that music is returned, don't I?" the King said.
Everyone stared at King Triton incredulously, and then they erupted into cheers.
They all gathered in the assembly hall early the next day. Zuko had only seen the palace once when he had been taken prisoner, and he had thought it majestic, but now, it seemed to glow with new life, making it even more magical and beautiful. Mermaids and mermen from all over Atlantica gathered in the hall, all chattering excitedly. Rumors had spread throughout the kingdom about the cause of the assembly. No one knew for sure for what though. No one except Zuko and his friends, that is.
At last, the King, his seven daughters, and Sebastian entered, though without fanfare or introduction, so King Triton had to clear his throat to get everyone's attention. The effect was immediate, though. Everyone was silent, and looked up at the King expectantly.
"To my daughters, and to all the citizens of Atlantica, I hereby decree that music will once again ring clear from one end of my kingdom to the other!" Triton declared.
Immediately, everyone began cheering, and Zuko could tell from their faces that they had hated the music ban as much as Ariel and Sebastian did.
"Therefore, I hereby present Atlantica's first official Court Composer." Triton announced, gesturing at Sebastian. At first, the tiny crab was shocked, but the cheers of the crowd and a push from Ariel gave him confidence, and he smiled proudly.
"Tank you, Your Highness," Sebastian said, bowing.
"Eh, not dat we don't trust you, Your Magesty, but . . . Swifty! Hit it mon," Sebastian called, bringing a small almost shrimp-like fish to the stage.
"Raise your right hand, fin, claw, tentacle or whatever the case may be," Swifty said, waiting for the King to do so.
"Very good. Do you promise to jump, jive, wail, groove, rock steady, and at all times lend a helping hand to your fellow music lovers?" Swifty asked.
"Um . . . I do?" King Triton said uncertainly. At once, everyone erupted into cheers. After presenting a flute to one of Ariel's sisters, the band took out their own instruments and began to play, only making the atmosphere even more joyful. Zuko smiled, and almost fell over when something rammed itself into his back. That something turned out to be Ariel, and she had her arms wrapped around Zuko's neck in a hug.
"Thank you, you helped bring music back to Atlantica," Ariel said.
Zuko detached himself from the red-head and looked her in the eyes. "No, Ariel, it was all you." He said.
Ariel smiled at him, and then looked around.
"I'll be right back: I think I'll try to get Daddy to dance," she said.
"If you can make me dance, you can make him," Zuko encouraged.
Ariel giggled and swam off in search of her father. Zuko smiled at her disappearing figure, and was about to go look for his friends when he was mobbed by Ariel's sisters.
"So, you're Ariel's new boyfriend, huh?" one with a purple tail asked.
"Oh, we're not –"
"Shut up Andrina! It's obvious they're still in the sensitive early stages," said another sister with a pink tail.
"I'm not –"
"It's alright, we won't tell a soul," said a red-tailed sister, grinning at Zuko slyly. Her sisters also gave Zuko that grin before swimming away.
"He's kinda cute," one with a green tail remarked.
"Off limits: remember?" a blue-tailed one asked.
"So, what? I'm not allowed to look?" the green-tailed one asked.
"You can look, just don't ogle," the blue one replied.
"I wasn't ogling!" the green one defended.
"Oh sweet Agni," Zuko moaned.
"Dey can be quite a handful, can't dey?" a voice chuckled.
Zuko didn't have to turn around to tell that it was Sebastian.
"Tell me about it," Zuko grumbled.
"You don't have to deal with them every day. Well, at least not yet . . ." Sebastian said, smiling.
"Why does everyone think Ariel and I are dating?" Zuko asked, exasperated.
"Dere's just someting about you two: so different and so alike. It's almost expected." Sebastian said.
"Great," Zuko remarked dryly.
Sebastian chuckled, and then gestured for Zuko to follow him.
"Come on! Dey're starting a conga outside!" he shouted.
Zuko sighed and followed the crab out into the garden, where indeed a conga had started, with Ariel and Triton at the front. Smiling, Zuko attached himself to the line, and found that people began to line up behind him, joining the dance. It was ruined, though, by Flounder crashing into the middle of the line.
"Sorry," he said sheepishly.
Everyone just laughed and picked themselves up before dancing individually in the garden. Zuko smiled at everyone, and he moved to go and join his friends when the sound of someone clearing their throat stopped him. Zuko turned around and saw – to his surprise – King Triton standing behind him.
"Don't think I don't know about you and my daughter," he said.
Zuko paled, and he silently began to curse rumors and anything associated with them.
"Sire, with all due respect: we're not –"
"There's no need to try and hide it," Triton laughed,
"Sire?" Zuko asked in confusion.
"You seem like a good lad, and I give you my blessing," Triton said, putting his hand on Zuko's shoulder before swimming away.
"What was that all about?" Ariel asked, coming up behind the Firebender.
"Your father just gave me permission to court you," Zuko said.
"What?" Ariel asked incredulously.
"He apparently thinks we're involved, as do your sisters, Sebastian, and my friends." Zuko said.
"So that's what Andrina was talking about: she warned me Adella was ogling at my boyfriend." Ariel said, giggling.
"People get the strangest ideas," Zuko commented.
"I know, people can't possibly obtain romantic feelings of any substance within . . . how long have I known you know? Two days?" Ariel asked.
"Closer to three, I think," Zuko said.
Ariel shook her head, smiling. "Like two people could fall in love in three days,"
Zuko smiled, and held out his hand. "Care to dance?" he asked.
"I won't have to drag you out there?" Ariel asked.
"Then let's dance,"
Awww . . . . I just had SO much fun writing this! And this is probably the longest one-shot I've EVER written, but a good portion of the dialogue is from the actual movie, mostly concerning the band. Oh, and if you're wondering about the band's names, I didn't even know they HAD names – except for Ray-Ray – but I was looking up Ariel's sister's on Wikipedia, and I found the band's names on there, and I was like "oh, well forget calling them 'the octopus' 'the turtle' and 'the green saxophone-playing fish', I'll just use their real names!" So there you have it! Hope it wasn't too long and annoying!